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1. WINSLOW IS NEEDED IN THE LOCKER ROOM After a season in the Buccaneers locker room, this reporter believes that team needed a presence like Kellen Winslow II in the locker room. His swagger, fire, and passion have come under criticism in his career at times, but Winslow's tough guy presence is needed on the Bucs offense and the team overall. Bluntly put, Winslow gives the offense a "bad ass" that it has lacked for some time.
"I think obviously what Kellen brings to the table is a passionate guy that is extremely athletic," said Bucs quarterback Luke McCown. "He's really a great route runner and has great hands. He's physical. He is a guy that we can really count on to go up and catch the ball over people. He's one of my very good friends. Kellen and I have been really close since we came into the league together in Cleveland. I'm excited to play with him again."
Winslow is that tough guy in part because his play has backed up his swagger and talk. He is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, and in 2007 became only the 14th tight end in NFL history to go over 1,000 yards for a season. That year, Winslow caught 82 passes for 1,106 yards and five touchdowns, and averaged 13.5 yards per catch.
Starting right tackle Jeremy Trueblood does have the traits to be that kind of tough guy player, but his on-field play has not reached the level to fortify that image. In a year or two, this observer thinks Trueblood will be there and be one of the top five right tackles in the NFL.
Former starting quarterback Jeff Garcia played the game with fire and passion that sent a shiver up the leg of some newspaper columnists, but nobody confused him for being a "bad ass" on the football field. Garcia was tough and could take a beating, but nobody was afraid of him. Of course, that is the case with pretty much every quarterback in the league.
Winslow brings an edge and swagger to the Bucs offense that was sorely needed, and has been missing since Mike Alstott was in his prime running defenders over on a weekly basis. 2. WINSLOW IS GREAT FOR McCOWN Obviously getting your starting quarterback a talent like Winslow to work with at tight end is a great asset. The security blanket that a good tight end can provide to a quarterback is invaluable. However, Winslow is going to help McCown just as much in the locker room, and the Bucs know it.
"Once the deal was done Friday, Kellen called me when he was at the facility, and he said 'I'm a Buc,' and I said 'All right!'" said McCown. "We were talking and getting excited about working together again, and Raheem gets on the phone and asked me what I thought about it. I told Raheem that [Winslow] is one of my very good friends, and Raheem said he knew that they had a history together and that was part of the reason they brought him to Tampa. I'm excited about that, and that they would consider the history I have with Kellen in bringing him in. I'm looking forward to throwing him the ball."
Winslow (first round) and McCown (fourth round) were part of the same 2004 draft class for the Cleveland Browns. At his press conference, Winslow left nothing unclear about his thoughts and feelings for his reunited teammate.
"He's a great quarterback," said Winslow. "He's going to compete for the starting job, and we'll see how it goes. I'm just happy to be on the Tampa Bay Bucs. I'm ready to get going. I'm ready to get going right now.
"Hopefully we can help each other grow. This is a team. Luke's one of the best men I know. Just as a man – he is a great man. I have the utmost respect for him and I just can't wait to get started."
There have been some that have questioned McCown's leadership abilities. As a backup quarterback, his role is to lead by working hard and being ready to play, but the vocal leadership is always the responsibility of the starter. Vocal backups have split locker rooms and can create quarterback controversies where there should not be one. McCown understood that because that scenario happened to his brother Josh in Arizona and elsewhere.
Winslow's reputation and presence is going to help McCown win over any doubters in the locker room. Winslow thinks the world of McCown, and if a player like Winslow's stature follows McCown and speaks up for him, then others will fall in line. McCown was in the know about the possibility of getting his old friend as a teammate again prior to the deal being struck.
"I found out the day before the deal happened and heard through the grapevine that we might be in the running for him," said McCown from his home in Texas. "Naturally when I heard that I called him to see what was going on. That was about it. I called him, and by the time he called me back he had gotten to Tampa had taken his physical and was a Buc. I'm really excited, and I know his wife and my wife are both extremely excited about it. I can't wait to get back to Tampa and start working."
The addition of Winslow was an astute move by Dominik to help his young quarterback find success on the field and in the locker room in what looks like will be his first season as an NFL starting quarterback. The 27-year-old signal caller said that he would be getting a month head start on the new offense prior to when the team starts offseason organized team activities.
"We're going to be back in Tampa on Wednesday, I'm going to be able to go in and hopefully sit down for a few hours a day with some of the coaches," McCown said. "If they can find time for me, I know they have a lot on their plate as well. I want to sit down with [quarterbacks coach Greg Olson] and sit down with [offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski], and start getting after this thing, and get as good as we can with it, so when the OTAs start we can hit the ground running."
The acquisition of Winslow keeps the team steady with four former 2004 Cleveland Browns. Winslow replaces the departing Garcia to go with McCown, wide receiver Antonio Bryant, and center Jeff Faine.
"That's right. I know. Isn't it something?" McCown said of all the Browns who have become Bucs. "I guess that doesn't say much for the Browns and their decision-making does it, Charlie?"
McCown has a point; all of those players will be relied on heavily to lead the Bucs offense in 2009. Faine was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, and deserved to be a Pro Bowler. Bryant was slapped with the team's franchise tag and that made him one of the highest paid wide receivers in the NFL. Winslow is a Pro Bowl tight end, and McCown is the favorite to be the Bucs starting quarterback next season.
"If they want to get rid of any of their other best players we'll take them, too," McCown said.
Perhaps wide receiver Braylon Edwards and defensive tackle Shaun Rodgers, both in precarious situations in Cleveland, would look good in Tampa Bay. Although neither of those players played for the 2004 Browns, so maybe they aren't options.
3. DOMINIK NEEDS TO CLONE HIMSELF In the latest SR's Fab 5, Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds documented how general manager Mark Dominik is virtually on his own in this free agent marketplace. The Buccaneers front office has become a one-man show with the departure of former general manager Bruce Allen and senior assistant Kevin Demoff, and after a few years of having a solid staff, the Bucs are down to just their current general manager. Sources from around the league have spoken to Pewter Report about Dominik being a one-man army, and they have rounded out the picture for what Dominik needs to be able to tackle free agency better. They have said that he needs to clone himself, essentially he needs more competent man-power who have the ability and authority to deal with agents, negotiate contracts and get players signed.
At the same time, what Dominik has been able to accomplish in free agency by franchising Bryant and re-signing McCown, defensive tackle Ryan Sims, wide receiver Michael Clayton, safety Will Allen, signing running back Derrick Ward and trading for Winslow deserves a lot of praise for the hard work he has put in without the full complement of resources that Allen.
In free agency, a front office has two things that it has to get done. The first is you have to speak to agents of the players you are trying to sign. The second task is you have to speak with other agents and the media to get information necessary to complete the picture of the marketplace, your rivals, and the league overall.
Dominik has done this role in years past with former Demoff. Demoff and Dominik fed the information to Allen. The Bucs were a functional machine attacking free agency, with former head coach Jon Gruden and the coaching staff serving as recruiters. Now Dominik is having to handle all of these roles – except for Gruden's role because of Raheem Morris' help on that front – alone, and simply is not able to do the work that three people did.
Dominik, like Allen, has a good feel for the league but what he does not have is people feeding him information. A contract negotiator would help get some of the legwork down for Dominik, and then he would only have to decide the final numbers. The Glazers have not stepped forward yet and allowed Dominik to hire more qualified help from the front office.
One would think that Dominik's in-house replacement would be able to fill part of that role, but that is not the case. The Buccaneers promoted Doug Williams to Dominik's position that had the title change to coordinator of pro scouting. Sources have told Pewter Report that Williams' strength is player recruitment and talent evaluation, and he is not charged with the responsibility of working the phone with agents, league officials and the media at this stage of his development. As a result, Williams' inability to work the phone and contracts with agents is not an asset to Dominik, who did that in years past for Allen.
Dominik promoted Williams to his role for his skillful eye for scouting the NFL and spotting talent. Williams also has skills as a recruiter for NFL players in free agency, and works well inside the building in the front office and in the locker room. Williams is valuable to the Tampa Bay organization, but he is not Dominik or Demoff, and he should not be expected to be them in terms of helping out with negotiations with agents. What Dominik needs is a capologist, possibly another senior assistant and perhaps a team lawyer.
It may take the rest of 2009, but Dominik will eventually get a front office team in place that can compliment his and Williams' skills at talent evaluation – as long as the Glazers are willing to foot the bill.
4. THREE-WEEK DELAY IN DECISION WAS COSTLY Another issue that has been a detriment to Dominik and the Buccaneers was the time frame that he has had to work with. Dominik got the job of general manager three weeks after the season ended. Three days after getting the job, the Senior Bowl started and Dominik and new head coach Raheem Morris had to hire a coaching staff while also trying to scout the college talent.
From being at the Senior Bowl practices, Dominik and Morris were more focused on the coaching staff and did not watch the collegiate players as much as they would have liked. They left that work to their scouts, and director of college scouting Dennis Hickey. However, the practices are also on tape so the coach and general manager can go back and re-watch the action at Mobile.
Once the coaching staff was finalized, which was the top priority, the Bucs were at the NFL Scouting Combine shortly after that. While doing all that, Dominik negotiated contract extensions for McCown and Sims. Dominik also placed the franchise tag on Bryant after negotiations there failed to produce a long-term contract. Following the Combine, Dominik and Morris started the process of releasing the five veteran players that sent shockwaves across Tampa Bay and the NFL. It has been a whirlwind six weeks for Dominik and Morris.
Some sources think that the Glazers waited to fire Gruden so they could just hire Morris without going through the process of interviewing coaches. The wait to fire Gruden and Allen, came at the expense of giving Dominik and Morris more time to get the organization set with a new coaching staff and front office staff to work free agency.
The timing of the firing of Gruden and Allen came nearly three weeks after the season. Had it been a week after the season ended, Dominik certainly could have used those extra two weeks to hire coordinators and assistant coaches, get ready for the NFL Scouting Combine and prepare for free agency.